December 17, 2017

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Sky's the limit for local ag company after it partners with satellite imaging outfit

Supplied photo</p><p>Farmers Edge’s partnership with Planet will allow them to integrate daily images of farmers fields through satellites.</p>

Supplied photo

Farmers Edge’s partnership with Planet will allow them to integrate daily images of farmers fields through satellites.

Winnipeg precision agriculture company Farmers Edge is leveraging its intense deployment of agricultural data sets all the way to the heavens.

The company has entered into a strategic partnership with Planet Labs, the San Francisco-based satellite company that operates the largest fleet of Earth-imaging satellites, to exclusively market Planet’s imagery to agricultural users in 20 of the most agricultural intensive countries around the world, including the U.S. and Canada.

“This is a game-changer,” said Farmers Edge founder and CEO Wade Barnes. “This will really open doors where we have not yet been through.”

The four-year partnership links two companies that are at about the same size and stage of development. Farmers Edge already had a long-standing relationship with a company that Planet recently acquired.

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Winnipeg precision agriculture company Farmers Edge is leveraging its intense deployment of agricultural data sets all the way to the heavens.

The company has entered into a strategic partnership with Planet Labs, the San Francisco-based satellite company that operates the largest fleet of Earth-imaging satellites, to exclusively market Planet’s imagery to agricultural users in 20 of the most agricultural intensive countries around the world, including the U.S. and Canada.

"This is a game-changer," said Farmers Edge founder and CEO Wade Barnes. "This will really open doors where we have not yet been through."

The four-year partnership links two companies that are at about the same size and stage of development. Farmers Edge already had a long-standing relationship with a company that Planet recently acquired.

Planet’s constellation of about 190 satellites takes new pictures of the entire globe every day with the kind of resolution that has never before been possible with such frequency and at such a low cost. Planet’s shoebox-sized satellites use new technology to manufacture them at a fraction of the cost of previous satellites.

The idea is that Farmers Edge will be able to integrate daily satellite images of farmers’ fields into the suite of analytics like soil samples and weather data that it already provides.

Farmers Edge has grown its customer base from 500,000 producing acres in 2014 to 18 million acres today, with significant coverage in Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and Australia.

"When we were looking at the partnership we looked at the landscape and we saw a lot of ourselves in Farmers Edge," said Andrew Pylypchuk, a Calgary-based Planet official who is focused on the ag sector. "It’s a young startup with about 500 employees (about the same number Planet has), very aggressive in the market, ahead of the game in their very unique way and really pushing the envelope."

The partnership with Planet gives Farmers Edge a leg up on the competition, including established players like Monsanto and John Deere, who both have precision agriculture offerings in the market.

Planet has been operating since 2010, but in the past year it has been aggressively entering the commercial markets and the agriculture sector is one where they have been getting the best traction and where subscription services, like Farmers Edge, have become more popular.

Pylypchuk said he believes the market is ready for this type of imaging technology.

"I think this is the golden age for us and Farmers Edge to bring this to the market," he said. "People have been dreaming of this for some time. All the pieces are finally fitting together."

Planet is counting on Farmers Edge‘s to drive and develop the product in the agricultural markets around the world.

"By locking down this technology it gives us a real differentiator between some of the other big companies," Barnes said. "I’ve been in this space for a long time and I’ve never seen anything that I believe will make this big of an impact."

They recently demonstrated the product with one of the largest soy bean producers in the world in Brazil and they were able to show a problem with their planting in a field on the same day.

"Until now, the challenge with satellite imagery was the data was simply not frequent enough to react to crop stress in a timely manner," Barnes said.

In a prepared statement, Planet CEO Will Marshall said, "Farmers Edge is consistently at the cutting edge of innovation in agricultural technology, and we’re proud to expand our partnership with them as we work to improve profitability, sustainability, and efficiency for the world’s producers."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Martin Cash .

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